The Simplest Things

Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

Also available in print, at Amazon UK and Smashwords, and for SonyReader, Kobo, Diesel, Apple, and NOOK!

Now let me make myself perfectly clear, as much as anyone else I like the lavish, the expensive, and the things that cry, “Bling!”

If anyone out there is considering giving me a Monet, a signed leather-bound first edition Jane Austen, or a world cruise for Christmas, feel free to go for it.  I’m ready, and I’ll even say, “Thank you!”  Aw, heck, I’ll throw in a hug, too, that is unless you’re too over-the-top scruffy.

But…

Sometimes the simplest things in life can give you the most pleasure.  For example, I love a fancy gourmet meal anytime, anywhere, but a fresh Georgia peach?  The fact is there’s nothing better.

I own a bright blue comb that I bought from my hairdresser in 1984.  Made of thick plastic, its teeth bend in an odd way that enables me to curl my hair as I dry it.  Slightly oversized, its unusually curved handle fits well in my hand.  If it ever breaks, I doubt that I’ll ever have a good hair day again.

Then there’s The Knife – some would say The Plain Old Knife – that I would not want to do without.  It’s basically a three-quarters length, slightly wider than normal spatula with a serrated edge.  After cutting a piece of pie cleanly, it’s wide enough to do double duty and serve it.  A true friend, it also fulfills the role of a pizza cutter and can then be used to serve the slice as well.  If it broke, I would miss it.

I have a bookmark made out of cardboard with my name and a beach scene imprinted upon it that was brought back for me from a trip to Florida by a friend who is no longer living.  Shorter than most bookmarks, it is perfect for use in a paperback book with the added advantage that it reminds me of V.  A simple piece of paper would serve the purpose as well, but somehow it wouldn’t be quite the same.

I’m sure that you’re now getting my drift. What you don’t realize, though, is that I came by this penchant for special life tools genetically.

My father, as he so often did, out-paced everyone when it came to such things.  He owned two special items in particular, though, that gained legendary stature.

In order for you to understand the value of the first item, you will have to accompany me to the house of my childhood for Junk Night as we called it.

On Sundays back then, we arose to a big breakfast and then went to church, after which we ate a big dinner as we referred to it.  By evening, the house was usually filled with our friends, and my mother would essentially go on strike, especially when our “friends” turned into hoards of teenaged boys.  This was, of course, in the early to mid-sixties – pre-fast food and/or pizza delivery.  Even frozen food choices were still fairly limited.

Luckily for us, Mother was a chocoholic, and early on, Sunday evening had become homemade fudge time.  As we girls had grown older, she had passed on this chore, but fudge isn’t all that hard to make and the effort was worth it.

To offset the sweet, we wanted something salty, and this is where Father came in.  Again, these were the days before microwaves or even hot air poppers, so enter one large, brand new aluminum pan complete with a lid and an intact handle.

Into this beauty my PhD chemist father would carefully measure more than enough corn oil and popcorn, sprinkling an appropriate amount of dry butter and salt seasoning overall.  Then he would plop on the pan’s lid and turn up the heat, having first made sure that a series of nesting stainless steel bowls were lined up and ready along the counter.  As the popped corn reached the top of the pan and threatened to overflow, he would tip some out into the first bowl, then the second, and on it would go.  Sometimes we consumed four or five overflowing pans full, depending on the size of the crowd.

A bowl of crisp apples, a plate of PBJ sandwiches, and the fudge completed our supper, alongside glasses of soda pop, which was allowed into our home for this meal alone.

Over the years, the corn oil impregnated the metal of Father’s popcorn pan and turned the entire entity into a blackened pot.  Somewhere along the line, the original lid was lost and replaced with a mismatched flat one with a ring in the center, a holdover from my father’s own childhood home.  The pan’s wooden handle cracked, and then most of it fell away, revealing the metal shafts.  The whole ensemble resided in the oven between weekends (hidden from view by my appalled but still on strike mother) ready to surprise any unfortunate who forgot it was there and turned on the oven by sending a smoky reminder everywhere.

Eventually, hot air poppers and microwaves made Father’s famous pan obsolete, and both the pan and Father retired.

Nothing could keep a good man like my father down for long, though.  On a trip to Europe, he purchased another constant companion – a Swiss army knife that was rather an anomaly at the time, given that Father neither hunted nor fished.  Still, my father found lots of uses for his new toy.

If you purchased a new garment, the knife’s tiny scissors would cut off the tag.  Wrapping a package? Father would expertly wield this tiny instrument and curl your ribbon.  If you needed to open a bottle of wine, my father’s thumb would flip out the knife’s corkscrew attachment for your use.  The small red treasure’s ability to be useful appeared to be endless, but Mother never let Father forget that within him resided the power to go overboard.

According to legend, shortly after the knife’s purchase, my parents had boarded a plane and flown over the Matterhorn.  Wanting to judge my father’s reaction to one of the world’s most famous mountains, Mother had glanced in his direction only to discover Father clipping his sideburns with the tiny scissors he had just located in his new toy.

Father, his pan, and his Swiss army knife are all gone now, but still…

Every time I buy a new garment, I miss those little scissors and the wonderful man who wielded them, and popcorn will never quite taste the same.  Sometimes, it’s the simplest things.

Annie Acorn

Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

Also available for NOOK!

A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn

Also available in print and for NOOK!

Annie Acorn’s 2012 Christmas Treasury (Annie Acorn’s Christmas Anthologies) edited by and stories by Annie Acorn

Also available for NOOK!

A Stranger Comes to Town (Annie Acorn’s Kindle Short Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

Also available for NOOK!

When to Remain Silent (Annie Acorn’s Kindle Short Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

Also available for NOOK!

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